David Ljunggren / Reuters | July 10, 2008

TOKYO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday brushed off evidence that U.S. interrogators had abused a Canadian terrorism suspect in Guantanamo Bay, saying the man’s trial should go ahead anyway.

An official document released in Ottawa on Wednesday showed U.S. authorities told a Canadian investigator in 2004 that they had deprived Omar Khadr of uninterrupted sleep.

Khadr, 21, is the only Western prisoner still held at the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He faces charges of throwing a grenade that killed an American medic and wounded another soldier during a fight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15.

Harper — who regularly criticizes other nations for abusing human rights — has ignored pleas to intervene in Khadr’s case, saying the man faces serious charges.

Critics of Khadr’s treatment say he is a child soldier who should be rehabilitated rather than punished.

Harper, in Japan on an official visit, did not respond directly when reporters pressed him about the document.

“We always act as a government on the basis of our legal advice and our legal obligations. The previous government took all of the information into account when they made their decision on how to proceed with the Khadr case,” he said.

Asked again to respond to the details of how Khadr had been treated, Harper replied: “Frankly, there is not a real alternative to this legal process now to probe the truth concerning these accusations (of killing the medic). We think this legal process should go ahead.”

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